EV West: classic car mechanics who went electric
Apr 27, 2018 - 4min read
There is something immeasurably sad about the thought of decades of classic car designs being consigned to history as we transition into the sleeker, more environmentally-friendly future of electric vehicles.
But just as there will always be those who swear allegiance to vinyl over MP3s or film over digital cameras, there is an equally committed contingent who are dedicated to classic cars - regardless of their tendency to be gas-guzzlingly inefficient compared to modern-day counterparts. It’s just too hard to give up style.
EV West is a Californian garage that has found a way to merge these two apparently conflicting dynamics - by selling EV conversion kits and retrofitting classic cars with cutting edge electric vehicle technology; preserving the all-important design and performance, while making the customer’s car a guilt-free vehicle for daily driving. They were responsible for the world’s first electric Ferrari (a 308 GTS), countless VW Beetles and even a Morris Minor.
“I’ve been car guy since I was in diapers - my father was a car guy too,” says Michael Bream, EV West’s founder and owner. “And being a car guy, it’s easy to see the performance advantage that EV technology brings us. Before you know it, it will actually seem odd to hear a combustion engine; the new technology is way too good.”
And, as a dyed-in-the-wool car lover, Michael more than understands the importance of preserving the aesthetics of each car, while actually improving technical performance - hardly surprising given that he started out by taking part in EV class racing events.
“We always shoot for at least double the power of the stock motor,” says Michael, “but the single most important thing in converting a classic is keeping it as original as possible. Still, an EV upgrade applies the ease and confidence of a modern car to your classic vehicle; the electric driveline reduces the need for constant servicing, the EV motor produces braking torque through regeneration, and the battery pack typically reduces the car’s centre of gravity to improve handling.”
As much as Michael was a car enthusiast before he was a renewable energy enthusiast, the second part of the equation combined with the first far more easily than you would imagine. “I grew up in southern California - the renewable energy side comes naturally to me,” says Michael.
California has more installed megawatts of solar capacity than any other US state, with EV West feeding into these numbers. With roof-mounted solar panels on top of the garage and a Tesla Powerwall in the workshop, all of the charging that goes on at EV West is done using solar-generated electricity. All materials at the office are recycled, and the company is involved in an ongoing programme to recycle spent batteries and other EV-related materials.
But the commitment to renewables doesn’t end outside the office. “My wife and I are Net Zero,” says Michael. “Our solar array at home actually produces more energy than we use, so we’ve ended up supplying our neighbours with clean energy too. And we both drive electric vehicles, doing all of our charging from solar power - whether we’re at home or at work.”
It seems that the passion for renewables is as contagious as the passion for classic cars, the latter serving as a gateway for the former in Michael’s life. EV West thinks the same can be true for its customers. “We just hope to inspire people to be a little more conscious,” says Michael. “We need to preserve what we have, while better sharing our resources with an increasing population. EVs and renewable energy meet both of these requirements, and can do that while saving classic cars, too.”
EV West’s next big project is a big step forward - as well as a return to Michael’s roots in EV racing, building a car to run in the 2018 Baja 1000 race around Mexico’s Baja California peninsula: “We’ll be running the race entirely on batteries that have been solar charged, so it will basically be a 1000 mile off-road race, all powered by solar energy.”
As in all of EV West’s cars, the buggy’s almost silent engine belies a ferocious power, emitting a characteristic whoosh as the vehicle flies past the camera. It’s futuristic and historical all at once; a shining example of how combining our existing passions with renewable energy can turn our past and our present into an unprecedentedly exciting future.